“Things You Save In a Fire”

By Katherine Center

St. Martin's

320 pages

Cassie isn't quite sure how she ended up trading her job as a firefighter in her Austin hometown to move to Massachusetts for a year to help out her mom — the woman who abandoned her husband and Cassie on the disastrous night of Cassie's 16th birthday a decade ago. But her dad thinks she should, so she says goodbye to everyone who cares about her to move clear across the country. She knows it won't be easy: Austin's firefighters are integrated and funded, with respect for women coworkers and budgets that supply the latest technologies. Small-town Massachusetts is sexist and underfunded.

Actually, Cassie kind of needed to get out of town: she was getting a plaque for bravery as a firefighter, but the substitute bigwig presenter was a big shock: the boy who ruined her birthday and solidified her distrust of romance. He patted her butt. On stage. Firefighter reflex, she punched him on contact. On stage. That's enough reason to get out of town while the smoke blows over, even if it does mean dealing with her mom, who she hasn't seen since the morning of that fateful 16th birthday.

Cassie has done a good job of protecting her heart up until now, but the stress of proving herself on the new job and dealing with her mom just might crack it, especially dealing with the fire department's other new hire: handsome, caring Rookie. She can't even use his name, she's so attracted to him. Way to lose the job you really need, way to lose the distance you really need, way to get into trouble.

Cassie is doing her best to live as an adult, but she has some growing up to do (don't we all, even as we age). Firefighters deal with life and death all the time, but Cassie gets new insights into what can really ruin your life and what can save it. Heart and humor override the drama in this story, making it a fun read. With issues of life and death, fate and forgiveness, that's hard to pull off. Recommended!

Em Maxwell

 

“PROMISED LAND”

By Mark Warren

Five Star Publishing

332 pages

This is the third Warren novel on Wyatt Earp. It captures the turbulent Tombstone years. At first blush, this reviewer seldom gives rapt attention to yet another Earp rendering. After hundreds of books and articles about the West's most dissected lawman, what else could be new?

Surprise! "Promised Land" and its two precedent books bring a delightful new flavor to a well-chewed subject. Warren's novel weaves all the necessary facts with fictionalized examinations of the immortalized characters that dotted the Tombstone landscape nearly 140 years ago.

Wyatt emerges from the cardboard cutout image that is too often portrayed. In "Promised Land," Earp and the surrounding cast spring to life with a well-written text that allows for a humanization of the West's most famous

confrontation. The conversations meld and ring true, as if Warren was

there with pen in hand. The dialogue and personal emotions of the

Tombstone cast are splendidly done, leaving this reviewer with the

thought that if it ain't true, it oughta be.

"Promised Land" is a back-slapping, hat-tipping welcome addition to the

endless attraction of Wyatt Earp and the OK Corral. It is the best Earp book in years.

Scott Dyke

“Birthmark Killer”

By J.A. Winrich

Writer Jaw Books

255 pages

Though one boat had yet to report in, Samantha was fairly certain she’d won the Cabo fishing contest with her catch of an 11-foot, 496-pound female bull shark. With weighing and photographing complete, the boat captain and his mate, to whom she had given the fish, opened up the underbelly and proceeded to pull out and toss aside the heart and guts.

As Sam watched in surprise, two flea-bitten, feral dogs raced down the ramp incline, ripped open the stomach and laid bare its horrifying contents. There before her was a tennis shoe with a foot still wedged inside. Among the other pieces of human flesh was one significant chunk with a duck-shaped birthmark.

Immediately, Sam’s thoughts went from appreciating how much the prize money would help her present financial conundrum to questioning who had been the shark’s last meal. Was someone at one of the Cabo San Lucas hotels missing a loved one? With her own adoption and abandonment issues at the forefront, Samantha felt driven to resolve the enigma and bring closure to the family. As she set about gathering the puzzle pieces, however, it became clear there were those who did not want the mystery solved.

With red-herring clues pointing this way and that throughout, the author succeeds at keeping the reader perched on the edge of their seat. You’ll be flipping the pages until the satisfying surprise ending.

Bonnie Papenfuss

“The Last Days”

By Joel C. Rosenberg

Tyndale House Publishing

464 pages

Joel Rosenberg's sequel to the bestselling “The Last Jihad” is a near-clone of its predecessor: an action-packed Clancyesque political thriller with paper-thin characters. Presidential envoy Jon Bennett returns as the protagonist, along with his bodyguard and love interest Erin McCoy, an "Uzi-toting, Arabic-speaking CIA supermodel."

Osama bin Laden is dead. Saddam's regime is buried. Baghdad lies in ruins. But in the shadows are men for whom the prospect of peace goes against everything they believe, and one terrifying scheme after another begins to unfold. As Jon and Erin face a battle for control of Jerusalem and the Holy Land, plus an Iraqi plan to rebuild ancient Babylon, they can't help but wonder: are such signs evidence they are living in the last days before the apocalypse?

Their efforts to broker a Middle East peace, centered on a fortuitously discovered deep oil reserve with the potential to make every Israeli and Palestinian wealthy, are literally blown to pieces when a suicide bomber claims the life of the U.S. secretary of state and Yasser Arafat himself, along with Abu Mazen. The surviving members of the American delegation, along with the Palestinian and Israeli entrepreneurs behind the oil-drilling venture, are scrambling to escape from the Gaza Strip when civil war breaks out among the factions grappling to succeed Arafat as leader. Meanwhile, sinister forces behind the attack seek to wreak further havoc by dispatching teams of terrorists to America while provoking the Israeli government to trigger a wider conflagration by invading the West Bank and Gaza.

Rosenberg sets the action in the year 2010, while simultaneously placing real-life events from 2003 such as the invasion of Iraq and the appointment of Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) as Palestinian prime minister seven years in the future. His efforts to make the book a relevant, "ripped-from-the-headlines" tale are dated and a stretch. However, it is fiction though realistic is some ways.

For readers who are conspiracy theorists and enjoy action-packed adventure, this will be an interesting read. Some of the action and "by the skin of there teeth" survival are difficult to accept. Yet I found myself rooting for the good guys. For others, the premise is interesting, but the action may seem somewhat far-fetched.

Don Severe

“THE FIFTH RISK”

By Michael Lewis

W.W. Norton & Company

219 pages

I first discovered this author when I found “Liar's Poker,” his take on stock market investing, and have been a fan ever since. John Williams, in a New York Times book review writes, "I would read an 800-page history of the stapler if he wrote it." Lewis wakes the reader up to the realities and layered complexities of today's world in an incredibly spellbinding way.

“Fifth Risk” is a quick but incisive description of the current executive branch of the U.S. government. He doesn't say "the emperor has no clothes," but the implication is certainly there.

Lewis makes a convincing argument for the need of government to deal with the complex, non-profit producing problems in today's world. By following just a few examples of what government is dealing with, the reader has to agree that some highly qualified, data-savvy scientists are needed along with skillful, dedicated team players of all kinds to make government work, as it should, for the best interests of the community.

His examples include the ongoing clean-up work involved in dealing with nuclear waste originally created in the 1940s, as well as how best to utilize the mega-data being collected by various government agencies. The suggestion that the current administration would prefer not to be bothered with all of this data leads one to the conclusion that if asked how electricity works, it would simply point to the nearest wall light switch or the latest tech gadget.

Because loyal supporters, past and potential, business buddies, family members and powerful dictators are out there to play golf with, the President thinks he doesn't need scientists, lawyers or even economists to help run the government. He'll send Rick Perry over to the Department of Energy and that will be taken care of. And, of course, just send Sonny Purdue over to the Department of Agriculture and that's all taken care of.

Lewis sees the President's choice of not bothering with details that he himself does not consider critical as an extremely risky choice. Yet, this is not a doomsday story. Fortunately, there are a lot of good, intelligent people working hard to keep the country from going completely off the rails. Some of these people are described in this book.

Georgia Hotton

“One Good Deed”

By David Baldacci

Grand Central Publishing

432 pages

While David Baldacci may be the No. 1 bestselling author (as the book cover claims), he’s far from the best author on the list. This new novel is certain to make him another bucket of money and stay near the top of the book lists for maybe five weeks. But it’s pretty much a “read and forget” offering.

Just released from prison, Aloysious Archer is forced to stay near his female parole officer in a small town. As a World War II veteran, he’s not yet adapted to civilian life. Definitely a man’s book, the misogynistic treatment of women may throw female readers off from the very first pages. Yes, it’s a very 1940s style of noir writing that appeals to many men even today. But it’s also the kind of cooked plot one might find in pulp fiction novels of that era.

It’s 1949 and Archer, a World War II veteran, is released from Cradock Prison for a crime he denies committing. He has only the clothes he owned before going to prison and a few dollars in his pocket. A bus drops him off in Poca City with a list that prohibits all alcohol, hanging out in bars and loose women. Here he will be watched closely by his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree, the first of several women who will lust after him.

From this point on, the plot races from one location to another, as one killing after another seems to dog Archer. Eventually he’s accused of murder and, with a stacked small-town jury ready to send him to the gallows, he can find no lawyer in Poca City willing to defend him. So, he takes up a law book, reads diligently for a few days then assumes the role of his own lawyer in a courtroom with a no-nonsense jury and a condemning judge ready with a rope.

The plot has about as many holes in it as any noir novel could without

falling totally apart. Still, it reads easy and makes no great demands on the reader except to be entertained. Fans of Baldacci can expect to see a whole bunch of future novels (and possibly films) with Archer as the lead character. But, as a dyed-in-the-wool fan of noir novels and films, the best I can give it is 3 stars out of 5.

A.L. Shaff

“This Tender Land”

By William Kent Kreuger

Atria Books

464 pages

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, four orphans, ages 16 downwards, create their own family and escape the abusive Lincoln School for Indians in Minnesota, heading to St. Louis in a canoe. Murder, mayhem and magic ensue. Nurturing hope, pursued by evil throughout their entire journey, they are helped and harmed in turn by the other people they encounter. On the rivers and in the towns they meet gamblers and thieves, whores and liars, faith healers and phantoms — both good and bad among them, the flotsam and jetsam of humans caught up in a time of huge upheaval.

This novel is a fantastic story of the real America, still on hand, with its hustlers and innocents trampled. Krueger also highlights the spiritual life of youth in this coming-of-age story: their sense of justice and mercy, their judgements of self and others, their seemingly clear vision of the hypocrisy of adults, their sense of wonder and gratitude.

“This Tender Land” is an adventurous and tender book. Though his villains have progressed to a place beyond redemption in this life, hurting children for their own ends, Krueger still leaves us with compassion for those who make bad choices in life and hope for those in horrific circumstances.

As I read, the adventures of Huckleberry Finn immediately came to mind, and indeed in the afterward the author pays homage to Twain. The rascal Huck was always more adult than Tom Sawyer — he had to be — and the technique of telling the story from the perspective of a main character recalling (and probably embellishing) the past works really well here. Krueger is a great writer, but like his narrator, he’s a wonderful storyteller, moving things along while making us care — and that’s harder.

There’s something for everyone in this book: drama, humor, and heart — with a touch of magic and mystery as well. It would make a fantastic read-aloud to share, an engaging book club book. It really is one for the ages, I hope to become a classic — one of the best books of the year.

Em Maxwell

“LORDS OF THE SKY”

By Dan Hampton

HarperCollins

640 pages

If you are a fan of fighter pilots, vintage aircraft or are an all around military/history buff from World War I and II, Vietnam, Korea, and even our more recent military campaigns that involve aircraft, you'll want to read this book. “Lords of the Sky” delves into the history of aviation from the very first aircraft designed and attempted to be flown by such legends as the Wright Bros., Glen Curtis, et al. It includes Etienne Montgofier, who piloted the first balloon air reconnaissance in 1783, and includes most well known aircraft, engines, and pilots.

From the German Ace the Red Baron to the top gun pilots and the fighter Aces of more recent times, we learn what made them successful. Also included are air combat tactics developed over the past century, leading air crews to be most effective in actual military situations. A chapter is devoted to the Russian women who flew combat aircraft in WWII, including their strategies, support and successes.

This book illustrates the reason for needing air support and just what is required before simply arming an aircraft by attaching weaponry, including guns, bombs, torpedoes, missiles and rockets. It explains thrust, lift, drag and weight as well as control surfaces that are critical components to flight.

From the WWI Army Air Corps Jenny, the WWII Flying Tigers P-40 to the P-51 Mustang then on to the F-16 Viper and F-18 SuperHornets, aviation lovers should find this book about the aircraft and pilots who flew them to be fascinating.

The author was a 20-year USAF veteran who flew more than 150 combat missions and received multiple Distinguished Flying Crosses. Lt. Colonel Dan Hampton (Ret) draws on his singular firsthand knowledge, as well as groundbreaking research in aviation archives and rare personal interviews with little-known heroes, including veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.

Don Severe

BOOK EVENTS

• Come listen, read your own poetry or share a favorite poem during the Poet's Corner informal gathering on Monday, Oct. 14, and Thursday, Oct. 24, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Joyner-Green Valley Library, 601 N. La Cañada Drive. All are welcome.

Page Turner's Book Club will discuss “The Kite Runner,” by Khalid Hosseini, on Monday, Oct. 21, 2:30 to 4 p.m., at the library.

• A Special Author Presentation in conjunction with NAMI features “The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia,” by author Marin Sardy, on Wednesday, Oct. 16, from 2 to 3 p.m. at the library.

• The free First Friday Local Music Program, featuring The Mesquite Two, with Maya Kay Larson and David W. Rohlander playing Celtic to Country, is Oct. 4 at 1 p.m. at the library.

TOP TEN

The 10 most popular books at Joyner-Green Valley Library for the past month:

“The Switch,” by Joseph Finder

“The Tattooist of Auschwitz,” by Heather Morris

“Contraband,” by Stuart Woods

“Guide Me Home,” by Kim Vogel Sawyer

“The Tale Teller,” by Anne Hillerman

“Lost Roses,” by Martha Hall Kelly

“Wild Card,” by Stuart Woods

“Backlash,” by Brad Thor

“I'll Never Tell,” by Catherine McKenzie

“Where the Crawdads Sing,” by Delia Owens

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